The Parkside Montessori School
53 Norwood Avenue
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

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As winter continues, we begin a short but busy February.  We start our month by retelling the legend of the Groundhog on circle…in very dramatic fashion, complete with our stuffed groundhog, flashlight and ground cover.  In preparation for our groundhog story, we have discussed life underground and animal hibernation. We explain that if February 2 is sunny, our groundhog will see his shadow as he emerges from his underground winter home, become frightened by it (not knowing it is really him), and quickly scurry back down into his burrow.  This means that there are 6 more weeks of winter.  If it is cloudy and he does not see his shadow, he will not get scared, and he will stay above ground and begin to look for food.  This means that spring will be early.  This year, both of the east coast groundhogs did not see their shadows, so as the legend goes, spring will be early, although our students are far less concerned about an early spring than we adults.    

We know that children are always interested in both natural and animal science. In February,  as we start to anticipate spring, we will begin our unit on Birds.  As with the dinosaurs, we have baskets of the Audubon birds, true to life in color and shape,  each one also making the authentic bird call when squeezed.   Our students seem to love to learn about the individual characteristics of each bird.  We begin with the robin, announcer of spring and messy nest builder, the cardinal, beautiful and gentle, and the blue jay, raucous and at times rude, but a protector of smaller birds.  We will also talk about the sparrow, owl, chickadee, Baltimore oriole, gold finch, and the fascinating tiny hummingbird who can fly backwards, sideways, and upside down, and can travel great distances to a warmer climate.  The shelves will contain fiction and non-fiction bird books and puzzles, and the math and language materials will also reflect bird study.   We will have several bird art projects complete with glitter and feathers.  At the end of the month we begin to tell the story of the robin and his journey from Georgia, where he has spent the winter, to New Jersey.  The children will be learning about bird migration and changing seasons, and we will also talk about the important east coast landmarks the robin will pass as he moves northward, including the beaches and palmetto trees of the Carolinas,  and the monuments of both Washington DC and Philadelphia.  When the robin finally makes his highly anticipated appearance here in New Jersey, the children are really excited for that first sighting…often in their yards or at a park.  As many of you know from being with us for a while, our students will be creating a book to illustrate the Robin’s journey.   The books are usually completed by April and the children will proudly bring them home.  While many curriculum themes and activities have changed, evolved, and improved over the years due to the contributions of many of our teachers, the children have been creating the Robin books since Parkside started in 1987! 

February also celebrates George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We will be telling simple stories about them and reading books as well.  There is also a large President matching chart featuring the heads of all the Presidents beginning with George Washington.   We will talk about the monuments dedicated to these two presidents in Washington DC, and we have replicas of those monuments that we presented as the Robin flew over Washington DC.

New activities in Practical Life this month include shoe polishing (perhaps a lost art), color whisking,  egg beating, orange squeezing, and celery cutting.  A particular favorite is dish washing because it is an activity where two children set up basins, soap and brushes to wash and then dry real dishes and silverware.  They really enjoy doing this task together, and gives them an opportunity  to work cooperatively and imaginatively.  In Sensorial we will be using more complicated shape materials such as the hexagon and rectangle boxes, both having many pieces to put together in many different shapes.  We will also bring in the third and fourth color boxes which are more difficult shading/matching exercises which serve challenge and enhance vital discrimination skills.

We have also started talking about Valentine’s Day next week.  It is a good time to focus on being kind, caring and helpful to each other here in school and at home with our families. We will be talking about ways to do this on circle.  Outside of each classroom we will have white bags labeled with each student’s name.  If you and your child would like to bring in Valentines for friends, you or your child can sign them, and the teachers will put them in the bags of the other children.  Do not address the outside of the envelope.  20-25 cards should be enough so that all children receive cards. 

February, while sometimes gray and dreary,  is full of new exercises and themes.  And as we approach the mid point of the year, we are gratified by the progress they children are showing…as good listeners, kind and considerate friends, and productive and happy workers.

“The bird dares to break the shell, then
the shell breaks open and the bird can fly openly.
This is the simplest principle of success.
You dream, you dare, and you fly.”

                                                  Isrealmore Ayivor


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